California Citrus Mutual President Joel Nelsen

Joel Nelsen, president of California Citrus Mutual, remains optimistic that a bill authored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein can help growers desperately in need of federal water to irrigate their crops.

California Citrus Mutual supports Feinstein's water bill

Citrus leaders in multi-year battle for water Much of the state's citrus is grown in Central Valley  Federal irrigation sources remain limited

At least one producer group is optimistic about a bill by Senator Diane Feinstein to create flexibility for federal water deliveries to growers.

California Citrus Mutual (CCM) and other citrus leaders were recently in Washington, D.C. to meet with congressional leaders, including Feinstein, over issues related to water delivery to farmers.

The trip comes in what some fear could be another year of zero deliveries from federal water sources, even though California has seen an appreciable increase in rain and snow so far this season, when compared to the last several years.

Citrus industry leaders, including CCM President Joel Nelsen, CCM board Chairman Kevin Severns and executives from Wonderful Citrus and Sunkist, met with Senator Feinstein to discuss her latest bill. The legislation is said to put California one step closer to comprehensive water policy reform, which Congress has been arguing over for several years now.

“It is promising, and Senator Feinstein has every interest in getting something done for California water security once and for all,” says Nelsen.

Citrus Mutual, in conjunction with other like-minded entities, will work to move this package through the Senate, hopefully as part of a western water bill while working to seek House support.

“A silent disaster is taking place,” says Chairman Kevin Severns. “It's clear Senator Feinstein is willing to work with the House to negotiate a water bill that benefits all California water users.”

Now is the time to act

Nelsen says that more good ideas could come from the negotiations and citrus industry leaders are willing to listen to Feinstein’s input, “but those that seek to impede achievement under the guise of ‘helping’ must be held accountable for placing California's future in jeopardy,” he said.

More than two years ago CCM made water a priority following an historical zero surface-water allocation for Central Valley Water Project water users, which included the Friant Water Authority – the source of irrigation water for much of California’s fresh citrus.

Challenges also persist in southern California which requires attention at the federal level.

“CCM was closely involved with the State Water Bond negotiations and advocated for stronger language and dollars to assist citrus growers in southern California and Monterey County, for example,” continues Nelsen. “It was a natural next step that we seek federal movement toward a balanced water policy.”

According to Nelsen, the Feinstein bill identifies several paths which California can improve its water infrastructure and create a more reliable water system for all water users.

“Everybody wants something,” Nelsen continued. “Most want to help people and the environment as well as sustain the production of food and fiber; but, the stakeholders who are singularly focused have been an impediment to improving California's water crisis.”

The bill contains language to create short-term solutions for existing problems and focuses on the vibrant future for California's water policy. 

“Does this bill give us everything we want? Not by a long shot,” Nelsen continued. “However, it is a very necessary and positive step toward a policy that both protects the integrity of the Endangered Species Act biological opinions and clarifies where flexibility could exist in the storage and movement of water.”

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